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Shia Islamic cleric Moqtada al Sadr has issued orders to his loosely organized militias by calling for an end to Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence.

BAGHDAD - Radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr ordered his militia on Friday not to take part in the wave of sectarian bloodshed sweeping Iraq, as the head of the British army called for his troops to be brought home.

The Shia firebrand issued the order amid what a US military spokesman called a “tremendous spike” in killings in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, warning the surge in violence “will still get worse before it gets better.”

Police found the corpses of 36 murder victims on the streets of Baghdad on Thursday, according to the US military.

Most of the killings were carried out by the death squads that roam the Iraqi capital at night, killing on behalf of the Sunni and Shia factions vying for power.

According to US commanders, many of the estimated 23 militia groups in and around Baghdad are linked to or protected by Sadr’s Mahdi Army, a loosely organised force of young Shia gunmen.

But on Friday, Sadr called on those who had killed Iraqis to ”repent”.

“There are rumours that there are groups or persons from the Mahdi Army attacking the Iraqi people with no right to do so,” Sadr said in a statement bearing his signature distributed by his office in the shrine city of Najaf.

“It is not proved so far but, if proved, I will declare their names and will renounce them with no fear or hesitation,” he said.

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